Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Adventure Godzilla Minus One is a Plus Ten

Godzilla Minus One is a Plus Ten

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Long gone are the days of actors in rubber suits fighting against one another on set with mini towns being blown up by a pyro technician using what seemed to be fireworks that one could find in a southern warehouse off Highway I-95.  Amusingly, it seemed that the monsters had special training in martial arts, as they threw roundhouse leg kicks and karate chops. This was the birth of monsters showcased on the big screen and television that kids and adults alike would gush over.  Since then, advancement has been light years with cinematic spectacles like King Kong (2005) and Godzilla vs King Kong (2021).  Now comes a movie from which the storyline is more potent than that of the monster from which the movie derives its name.  The subplot is Godzilla, but the storyline (and more exciting aspect of the film) is about a man haunted by his decisions of the past painstakingly trying to make amends.

Post-WWII, Japan is a nation in ruins, its people grappling with the aftermath of a devastating war.  Soldiers return to a landscape of desolation and destruction.  Among them is a kamikaze pilot (Ryunosuke Kamiki), who returns fighting a relentless battle within that has left its scars on him and on his relationship with his friend Noriko (Minami Hamabe).  And to add to his torment, he encounters a creature, once thought to be a myth, born from the atomic bomb-the indestructible behemoth, Godzilla.

The storyline is fascinating, and the special effects are captivating and realistic.  Director Takashi Yamazaki and writers Ishiro Hond and Take Murata capture the feel of Steven Spielberg’s film classic Jaws combined with the suspense and horrific intensity of Friday 13th and Halloween (PG 13 version, of course).  The pulsating musical rhythm when Godzilla approaches is only second to those mentioned above.  Goosebumps undoubtedly appear when his dorsal spines rise out of the water like that of a great white shark, along with his dark, piercing eyes floating quickly toward the hapless victim or prey. The slow, heavy stalking walk of Godzilla is reminiscent of Jason Vorhees and Mike Myers stalking his next victim. There is no hurry, no anxiousness, just a steady determination that leaves a grim path of screams and destruction.  

Yamazaki evokes the hardships and outcomes of war.  It teeters on “survivor’s guilt,” but that is not it.  Although Kamiki’s character survived, he did not fulfill his duties of sacrifice and chose to live with regret.  He sees himself as a coward and not a survivalist. He struggles with the normalcy of life, and just when a peek of hope peers through his veil of torment, light is quickly cast away into a sea of darkness.  This is the heart of the film.

With so much praise, are there any drawbacks or faults in the film?  The robotic movement of Godzilla is a letdown. The intentionality of his walks questions if this was calculated.  It does give it a mystique because everything else is spot on. The use of CGI would be more beneficial as it was used earlier in the film with Godzilla’s introduction.

Godzilla Minus One receives a plus 10.  Yamazaki’s depiction of a monster classic that started in 1956 and has been made over 38 times speaks volumes and is the best.  A film cannot often stand on its own without the focus of the character in which the film is named. If Godzilla had never appeared, the film would have been just as intriguing, with a soldier’s journey of self-reflection. Just as gripping as his struggles with life are draped with turmoil and dismay.  Lastly, the journey would be just as satisfying as viewers scrape and crawl to its emotionally exhausting destination. 

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